“Breaking Into The Industry” is a weekly interview series that aims to demystify the process of “breaking in” to the video game industry. Join us today as we speak with James Root about his work on the Battlefield 3 launch and his history in the television industry. Please note: This interview took place in early October.
What's your name and job title?
James Root, Global Online Marketing Manager, EA Games Label.
What does a Global Online Marketing Manager do on the EA Games Label?
We drive the vision, execution, and financial management of social, online, and community marketing strategies. This means we are responsible for all of the websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other social media channels for the shooter titles at EA – Battlefield, Medal of Honor, Gun Club, etc.
You say “we,” so you must have a team. How is that broken down? Is there a team for each region, or a central global team?
Generally each region has a team assigned to it, for North America there is a group of online marketing managers, community managers and content creators who support different genres. Our team supports shooters but there are teams for racing games and adventure RPGs (Role Playing Games).
We have counterparts around the world in the EU (Europe) and Asia/Pacific who we coordinate with on a daily and weekly basis. Those teams help ensure the messaging and strategies being driven out of North America are echoed and amplified globally.
Being a Global Online Marketing Manager, it sounds like there is a lot on your plate, especially when you consider the different time zones. How does a typical day go for you?
I'm at my desk almost every day between 7 and 7:30AM. There are conference calls with the EU teams that start then and continue usually until 9:30 or 10AM. During those calls we are either planning for upcoming marketing beats or reporting on the status of current beats. We just finished an alpha trial for Battlefield 3 and during that time we would meet every day to confirm the status of the servers, consumer traffic patterns, and other key metrics.
Once we are through with our calls, typically we each move on to our areas of responsibility and spend the rest of the day working on whatever projects are the main priorities.
Any current priorities you can share, as an example?
Sure, right now we are focused on Battlefield 3 which launches in just a few weeks.
We are updating the website daily with blog posts and other custom pages that support the marketing. For example, right now we are creating pages that break down in detail the benefits for pre-ordering the game along with creating blog posts that describe the various features and technology behind the game.
Every day is about creating new content, messaging it out through our channels and then leading the conversation with our community. Since the gaming community is so influential we want to create information that keeps them excited for the game and telling others about their impressions.
Much of what we do is very social and organic but we are always trying to learn what works best by digging into our traffic metrics and then using that information to inform our next round of communication.
I really liked following the marketing behind Medal of Honor and those videos that interviewed people who are, or were, Tier 1 Operators. Were you and your team involved with conceiving that idea, or is that a different team?
The idea was conceived and executed in conjunction with our ad agency. They shot and edited all the footage. Our job was to take those assets and make sure they got wide distribution over the web, Facebook, and YouTube.
We had a special area on the website where we would release each new asset only to our fans who were members of the community first. They would get a 12 hour early access preview before we went wide.
Going back to Battlefield 3, as you get closer and closer to launch, I imagine you get busier and busier. And with you having a global role, do you actually get much sleep or do you find yourself working and checking emails 24/7?
Actually, last year on Medal of Honor I was on call most of my waking hours. At one point I worked 19 days straight without a day off and most of those days were 14+ hours. With Battlefield, though, we are getting into a much better rhythm working with our team so that we are following the sun and are pretty much available and active throughout each 24 hour cycle. We call it passing the baton, and at the end of each day the next team picks up where the other left off.
Our web development teams are based in North America, so while they are only working in that time window, we can use our overnight to have the EU teams review and approve our work so that when we come in the next morning we can move forward with everyone's input.
Glad those days are over, especially since I'm sure Battlefield 3 is a much larger launch. Prior to working in your current role what were you doing? What was your career path, from college to now?
For the past 10 years I've been based in Los Angeles, working for large entertainment and technology companies where I've been developing their online marketing properties. I started at 20th Century Fox, building marketing websites for shows like the X-Files and Fox Sports. From there I’ve moved around to places like Hollywood.com and Microsoft's Windows Media film division.
This phase of my life has been really my second career. When I graduated from college I had a degree in fine art and didn't really know what I wanted to do. My first job/career was teaching English as a second language in Japan, where I ended up living for two years.
After that I worked in Hollywood for a few years in film and television production. When the web came along, however, it was just something I instinctively gravitated to. Since there were no schools at the time everyone was self taught and I was able to use the producer skills that I developed in the film world to very effectively establish a career in online media.
I love what I'm doing now. Every day is like solving a big complicated puzzle. It takes a lot of brain power and is a constant cognitive challenge. Plus it's really fun. The folks who work at EA are amazing. It's by far the best place I have ever worked, which is also a big part of the value for me.
What drove you to EA? Are you a gamer at all, or perhaps you just admired the brand?
It was totally random. I was working at PBS public television developing a website for the Jim Henson Company's new kids show. That had just launched and a recruiter from Pandemic Studios cold called me. He had seen my profile on LinkedIn and thought it was a good match for a role that Pandemic was hiring for. One thing led to another and I came on board at Pandemic. When Pandemic closed in 2009 I transitioned to EA.
I know there are a ton of gamers out there who would kill for my job, and I know it's very ironic that I was not a gamer myself when I first started. I've since however become a huge fan of shooters and racing games in particular.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to break into the game industry and eventually become a Global Online Marketing Manager?
I think there is a ton of opportunity in the game industry. Of course, knowing something about the industry is important and it's possible to get some in-depth knowledge just by following major gaming news sites like Kotaku and IGN.
I don't really know how to "break in" per se though, because the industry came to me, not the other way around. That said I think there are three keys to success.
1. Work your ass off. If you get a job, when someone asks you to do something say “Yes!” with a smile and then go do it. And then follow through and let them know that it got done.
2. When you don't have anyone asking you for something, look around and find something that needs doing anyway and go do it.
3. Always be working on improving your writing and communication skills. It is equally important to be able to communicate to consumers and internally to co-workers. Write in short, declarative sentences. Summarize frequently. Be proactive in communication. Don't wait for your boss to ask you for an update. Provide written updates daily. Learn to be definitive when necessary.
Alright. I think I've got all I need. Thanks for doing this James!
For sure, anytime!